Contracts for the main packages of the Mecca metro have been negotiated and are ready to be signed as soon as high level approval is given, according to Ali Abdelfattah, CEO designate of Makkah Mass Rail Transit, speaking at the MEED Construction Leadership Summit in Dubai on 25 May.

The scope of work has been adjusted, with some changes to station design.

The project remains a priority, according to Abdelfattah.

“We have definite promises from His Royal Highness the Mayor of Mecca that the project is going ahead as planned,” he said. “The government plans to increase the number of Umra visitors from 4 million a year to 10 million, and hajj pilgrims from 2.5 million to 10 million over five years, and to achieve that and move pilgrims around Mecca, the metro is a top priority.”

The soft start of the project also took place a few months ago. A private developer has begun digging on the most critical areas in the holiest part of Mecca, the Haram.

This section is underground and involves four stations and 3km of track.

The rest of phase one, which includes 46 kilometres of track and 22 stations, is expected to go ahead as soon as the Council of Economic and Development Affairs approves the contract awards. A quarter of the network will be underground, around the Haram, and the remainder on viaducts.

There are six main packages, civil works, tunnelling, viaducts, systems and station finishing, rolling stock and bus supply and operations.

MEED reported in early April that the four contracts for the delivery of Mecca Metro are still awaiting final sign-off from Saudi Arabia’s Royal Court.

The contracts include two civil works packages for lines B and C, as well as the systems and rolling stock deals.

In July 2015, a consortium of Spain’s Isolux Corsan, the local Haif Contracting, and Turkey’s Kolin said it had been selected as the preferred bidder for the first civil works package. According to a statement on Isolux Corsan’s website at the time, the consortium has put forward a proposal for lines B and C valued at SR9.95bn ($2.6bn).

The Spanish-led team has also been invited for negotiations for the first-phase contracts for lines B and C.

For the second civil works package, it is understood a joint venture of Spain’s Assignia and Turkey’s Mapa submitted the lowest offer at SR3.5bn.

A joint venture of local contractor Al-Saad, France’s Alstom and the UAE’s Drake & Scull is understood to be the low bidder for the systems package.

The Mecca metro’s two remaining lines, A and D, are still under study.